Eighteen years after the Oputa Panel report, there does not seem to be an end to the harassment of Ogoni women and the repression of their communities by the armed security forces.
Ogoni women on the platform of Ogoni Women of Praise, have called on Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State to take urgent steps to end what they described as ‘’the constant harassment of peaceful Ogoni community dwellers’’ by the Nigerian Army.
For the protesting Ogoni women shooting in Ogoni communities, ‘’is causing extreme fear and sending us and our children to early graves.’’
The Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission of Nigeria that was popularly known as the Oputa Panel was a commission that developed following the collapse of the military dictatorship that controlled Nigeria until 1998.
It was created by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 2001. Its mandate was to investigate human rights during the period of military rule from 1984 to 1999. In terms of reconciliation, the commission also worked towards unifying communities like those of Ogoni previously in conflict.
The commission submitted its final report to Obasanjo in 2002, but the Nigerian government has not taken any action to date. The Oputa Panel report was not released to the public until 2005, when it was published by two activist groups, the Nigerian Democratic Movement and Nigeria-based Civil Society Forum.
However, Coordinator of the group, Mrs Comfort Daada, made the while reacting to an alleged heavy shooting by soldiers in Yeghe, Gokana Local Government Area, noting that the attitude of the army against the Ogoni people especially the community of Yeghe must be discouraged as it appears to be a deliberate plot to systematically kill the people .
The septuagenarian said there was no incident in Yeghe warranting any shooting and to be faced with the sudden fright of a military raid is only killing innocent people especially women and children. She said the government was treating citizens in the most unpleasant ways by allowing the military to become an instrument of torture.
Mrs Daada said the alleged military raid was reminiscent of the Paul Okuntimo’s era and the army should be advised against that as it seriously hurt the women, children and innocent citizens including the strangers amongst us.
She said the fear and torment experienced by the community dwellers was horrendous and is gradually sending the indigenes to death.
“We are extremely terrified and many of our women and children are falling ill out of fear” she said. Narrating the case of a woman who collapsed and died just hearing the sound of gunshots during an army raid Mrs Daada said what the army is doing in Ogoni is a way to gradually send people to early graves.
She urged Governor Wike to take urgent measures to protect Ogoni citizens and end the spate of military repression in the land.